Finding love online with a millionaire turned out to be a rich story for one Upstate New York woman.
The Buffalo News reports a local woman lost $718,000 after she was duped by someone she met on MillionaireMatch.com, a dating site that aims to match rich and successful people with “attractive singles.” She exchanged romantic messages, phone calls and photos over three months with “Marvin Roecker,” who turned out to be a work of fiction.
The woman, who has only been identified as a “highly paid, white-collar professional,” found out the hard way when her “match” claimed he was in the middle of a $7 million deal to sell dried cocoa beans to Kraft Heinz. He asked her to help fund the shipping and insurance, promising to pay her back when they would meet in person and began a relationship.
The FBI tells the Buffalo News that the photo she received of “Marvin” turned out to be a realtor in Texas whose name is not Marvin Roecker. There’s no evidence he was aware of the scam.
Two men, both citizens of Ghana, were arrested in the U.S. last month in connection with the scheme. Jason Osei Bonsu and Adams Amen recently appeared in a Buffalo courtroom to face federal fraud charges and likely deportation; they’re also accused of cheating a man in South Dakota out of $72,500.
Robert J. Gross, a supervisory special agent for the FBI in Buffalo, told the newspaper that similar romance scams occur across the U.S. Scammers build trust and rapport with intimate communication, figuring out “what buttons to push” to take advantage.
There were more than 14,000 victims of similar romance scams totaling $219 million last year, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Victims include men and women, but the most vulnerable include widowed or divorced women over 50.
Investigators say the true number of victims is as much as 10 times higher as more scams go unreported, likely due to embarrassment.
Last week, an Arizona man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for convincing women he met on Tinder, Match.com and other dating sites to invest thousands in fraudulent schemes.
According to Huffington Post, perpetrators also use social media sites to create fake profiles and target victims beyond dating sites. One man in Las Vegas found out his photos were used for hundreds of Facebook accounts when one victim even appeared at his front door.
“Social media is the avenue these people use to access their victims,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott S. Allen Jr. told the Buffalo News. “Be careful about the information you share and be careful about who you share it with.”
And also watch out for a big red flag: “If a person you’ve never met asks you for money, it’s probably a good thing to avoid,” Allen added.